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  • Writer's pictureCarol Barron

A Family Christmas

I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the family gatherings, the food, the present giving and receiving, the carols. I am named Carol because I was born three days after Christmas and when I was young, my parents told me that they put all the coloured street lights up in Nelson for my birthday. I believed them.

However, for many people, Christmas is such a busy time with end of year things to do, like attending Christmas parties, plays and pageants, school prizegiving and break ups. There are presents to buy, relatives to visit and church services to attend, and it is often really stressful.

Christmas is even more stressful when you are struggling financially and have to make difficult decisions. The rising cost of living and ongoing impact of Covid-19 has meant that many whānau struggled to put kai on the table and presents under the tree in December 2022.

Hana, mother of two children who are under five years old, is studying towards a diploma in veterinary assistance and animal welfare. She also volunteers at animal welfare charities. Hana said, “It’s not fair my children have to miss out on stuff just because I can’t afford it and it’s stressful for me deciding whether to give them a present or to cook a special meal or do something we don’t normally get to do.”

However, thanks to Christchurch Methodist Mission, and the kindness of strangers, Hana, and her whānau, were one of many who received a personalised Christmas hamper just before Christmas, so Hana did not have to make those stressful decisions about what to do with her limited income.

Glenda Marshall on 22nd December at the Chapel Street Centre

Support A Family is an annual project coordinated by Christchurch Methodist Mission and organised by Glenda Marshall. The project takes places over several months. Glenda collects the profiles of whānau/families and then distributes these to the list of generous donors, along with stickers with numbers so the recipient whānau can remain anonymous. The donors do a great job of sourcing personalised gifts for members of the whānau, wrapping them beautifully and providing kai/food for a Christmas celebration.

On the morning of 22 December 2022, donors dropped off hampers to the Chapel Street Centre - the Christchurch North Methodist Parish. Staff from the Mission and Spark help with unloading the donations and putting them in numerical order in the rooms. It is an amazing sight to see - the church hall and meeting rooms full of generously donated Christmas gifts.

Then, in the afternoon, whānau come and collect their hampers and Mission staff help with the loading of the gifts and kai into the cars.

The recipient whānau are so grateful. Hana said ,“It’s nice to get something like a Christmas hamper to help you push on. I can’t earn money at the moment but I tell my children that when life knocks you down, you take a breath, keep pushing forward and try to achieve.”

The Support a Family projects gives individuals, families, businesses and churches the chance to offer families and single people in need a Christmas hamper chock full of goodies. The act of giving triggers an oxytocin boost which induces happiness and fights against stress. Gift giving can even lower blood pressure and levels of cortisol - the stress hormone. Gift giving boosts self-esteem, cultivates strong relationships and helps overall wellbeing. This is probably why so many donors continue to support this initiative year after year.

Laura Todd with the gifts for the hamper donated by Spark

160 families received hampers through Support a Family in 2022 and one mother who received a hamper wrote a thank you note which said, “What an incredibly beautiful hamper. The gifts were absolutely perfect and the amazing selection of snacks and food was just incredible! Thank you so much for making Christmas extra special. An extra thanks for presents for Mum. I burst into tears when I saw them. So kind. 😊”

Another thank you note read:

“Thank you , thank you, thank you so much for the incredible Christmas hamper! After an extremely hard year for our whanau, the pressure it took off us at a busy time of year was so appreciated. Our children were so amazed with the kai and beautiful gifts, their reactions were magical. Your generosity made what was a very stressful time, into the best Christmas. Thank you again. Hope your holidays were as amazing as what you made possible for us.”

One child wrote: Thank you for all the food and presents. I really like my pens. Merry Christmas.

Other Methodist Missions and organisations have similar projects at Christmas. Projects like Support a Family enrich the lives of both the recipients and donors. The act of gift giving and receiving spreads hope, peace, joy, and love. It continues the tradition of three wise men that travelled from the East to give gifts to the Christ child.

Gift giving helps to create a more just and inclusive society where everyone flourishes. Contact your local Methodist Mission or me to see how you can support projects like Support a Family and reap the benefits of gift giving.

Carol Barron, National Coordinator

03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 |

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